A Pre-ACT 7 Experience From Germany and The United Kingdom… Linda Ruth Reporting

April 28, 2017

Linda Ruth reporting with David Atkins and Helmut Graf at the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss.

It’s Day 1 of Dr. Samir Husni’s ACT 7, and people are gathering from around the world to hear what is new in magazine publishing.

I spent an hour this morning with Dr. Husni and two attendees who’d flown in for the event: from Germany, Helmut Graf, CEO of VNR for German Business, Inc., and from England, David Atkins, owner, Newsstand.co U.K.

Helmut and David have weathered many of the same changes in magazine publishing that we’ve experienced in the U.S., and in the process re-defined their businesses. “We began with loose-leaf information binders, a market niche that was taken over by the internet. Today our company focuses on newsletters, and with 300 niche publications covering business-to-business and business-to-consumer, and an average circulation between 300 to 10,000, we have probably 80% of the newsletter business in Germany,” Helmut Graf said. “Years ago, when we were a small entrepreneurial company addressing the business sector, we didn’t have the funding for newsstand, so we tried a different approach. And our success took us by surprise.” The success began, he believes, as a result of a focus on the audience. “Too many publishers begin with a focus on format: a newsletter, a consumer magazine, an online magazine. Each format has its own rules how to do it, its own approaches how to publish. Instead, we focus first on the audience to determine what their needs are; and from there we decide how to address them. The concern with the formats, with the competition, those concerns come after.”

As a result, at a time when the major business magazines on the newsstand have shrunk in distribution from an average of about 100,000 copies to closer to 15,000 each, VNR continues to grow. “We do dozens of newsletters for private investors in Germany, we look at the interests of the investors and we tailor our editorial to meet those needs.”

David Atkins’ business also took an unexpected turn because of changes in the magazine industry, and also found its success in a customer-focused approach. His company began as a wholesale agency, and with the shakeup of the industry and the consequent loss of many businesses, Newsstand.co refocused based on what the customer needed. “We asked ourselves, who was our customer?” Atkins said. “And we replied: it’s the publisher. What does the publisher need; what can we do to enable our publishers’ success?”

The answer, they found, was to help the publishers find their way into the hands of the reader, either direct, through internet sales, or to the shops through online orders. That business model is strengthened and supported by their online strategy. “We used to send an email 3-4 times a year,” Atkins said. “Then we started sending out covers, and our readers really liked that. We don’t include a lot of copy, we let the image speak. Now we send them out daily, and our sales reflect it.”

Newsstand.co provides concierge service: if someone requests or purchases a magazine with a particular person, place or topic, Newsstand.co will follow up to offer another product with the same focus of interest. This approach can lead to a conversion rate of 20% or more. “Our industry needs a way of cross selling magazines, and in so doing, promoting the industry as a whole,” Atkins said. “This is a step towards doing that.”

One comment

  1. […] via A Pre-ACT 7 Experience From Germany and The United Kingdom… Linda Ruth Reporting — Mr. Magazine […]

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